The Big Sick
Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.
Roger Ebert became film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He is the only film critic with a star on Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and was named honorary life member of the Directors' Guild of America. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters' Guild, and honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since 1989 he has hosted Ebertfest, a film festival at the Virginia Theater in Champaign-Urbana. From 1975 until 2006 he, Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper co-hosted a weekly movie review program on national TV. He was Lecturer on Film for the University of Chicago extension program from 1970 until 2006, and recorded shot-by-shot commentaries for the DVDs of "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Floating Weeds" and "Dark City," and has written over 20 books.
The 1994 Chicago International Film Festival will kick off its 30th anniversary season on Thursday with the Midwest premiere of Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway." Its star, Chicago native John Cusack, will be in attendance. The festival will end 18 days later, on Oct. 23, with the world premiere of David Mamet's "Oleanna," based on the play about political correctness that has inflamed theater audiences.
TELLURIDE, Colo.--Michael Tolkin once sold office supplies over the phone. He called up people and told them they were finalists for valuable prizes, and some of them got so excited they bought rollerballs and staplers and manila folders. In Tolkin's new film, "The New Age," his hero begins as a high-paid ad man, and eventually finds himself on the phone, selling office supplies.
TOKYO, Japan--People ask me who my favorite directors are, and I mention Hitchcock, Scorsese, Fellini, Welles and Ozu. They nod, but there is a slight pause, and I know they are considering whether to ask me: "Ozu?"
The saddest thing, Spike Lee thinks, is that in some neighborhoods the children no longer know how to play street games. The streets are so unsafe the kids hide inside, and decades of childhood culture have disappeared in a generation.
Q. After seeing "Forrest Gump," I got into a big argument with my friend Sarah about how they made Gary Sinise's legs disappear. She claimed he just tucked them under, but I contend that if you are going to involve special effects wizards extensively in a film, they are going to be more hi-tech. Which one of us is right? (Lydia Smith, Winnetka)
LOS ANGELES -- It's a touchy situation. You describe a guy's movie as one of the worst of the year, and then it grosses $200 million and makes him into Hollywood's flavor of the month. You say it wasn't funny, and the audiences can't stop laughing. Now you're supposed to walk into a room and interview the guy. Hey, let's hope he has a sense of humor.
LOS ANGELES--Winning an Oscar, it is said, means an actor gets a pass for a year or two. For a brief moment he seems to be the master of his destiny. Tommy Lee Jones won the Oscar in March, for his work in "The Fugitive," but by then his Oscar surge was already well under way, as if Hollywood had anticipated the award. He is one of the busiest actors of 1994.
LOS ANGELES -- Kevin Costner was so quiet and relaxed, so soft-spoken, it took a little while for me to realize how angry he was. Not angry at anyone or anything in particular, but just unhappy about having to get up every morning and deal with things that wear away at him. He didn't come out and say so. It was only later, looking over my notes, that I began to notice the same note being struck in different ways. If I could paraphrase his complaint, it would be that he means well and works hard and keeps plugging away, and the world is too careless with his pains.
"Interactive" is the kind of word I like to interact with by hitting the "delete" key on my computer. I'm asked at least twice a week about the future of "interactive movies," and I am sorry to disappoint, but the answer is: Interactive movies have no future. They're already over with, except as a buzzword often found in the same sentence with terms like "infobahn" and "information revolution."
CANNES, France -- Every year they come here to the Riviera, the new class of young American filmmakers, hoping for lightning to strike. Ever since Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" arrived at Cannes in 1967 as a motorcycle film and returned to the United States as an art film, Cannes has provided a sort of festival within a festival, of first and early films by young Yankee hopefuls.